Living and working conditions

Print this page


Living conditions

The health system


Employees, including trainees, are required to pay social security contributions. This means that employers and employees pay a contribution to statutory pension, unemployment, sickness and care insurance each month. The amount of contributions paid depends on your gross salary. The employer pays half of the contribution, with the employee paying the other half. Salary deductions for social security contributions are subject to an upper limit. This is known as the contribution assessment ceiling [Beitragsbemessungsgrenze].


If you intend to work in Germany, you must always take out health insurance as an employee (national health insurance) as soon as you sign an employment contract. To ensure that illness does not pose a financial risk, the statutory health insurance funds provide their members and their members’ families with cover in the event of illness. Non-working spouses and children can also be included in the insurance. As a member of the national health insurance scheme [Gesetzlichen Krankenversicherung (GKV)], you are automatically also covered for nursing care.


Employees can take out private sickness insurance if, over the course of a year, their gross monthly income has exceeded the compulsory insurance limit of EUR 58 050 per year (EUR 4 837.50 per month) (assessment ceiling for 2021).


The self-employed, freelancers and artists are generally privately insured regardless of their income level, as are tenured civil servants and other persons entitled to receive benefits [‘Beihilfeberechtigte’] such as judges, members of a Landtag [regional assembly] and members of the Bundestag.

The compulsory insurance limit is set annually by the legislator. Employees who earn a salary above this compulsory insurance limit can take out voluntary insurance. The contribution assessment ceiling for statutory pensions and unemployment insurance is EUR 7 100 (west) and EUR 6 700 (east) per month in 2021.


For a temporary stay in another Member State, EU citizens and citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) merely require a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in order to receive medical treatment if they fall ill.


You can find addresses and telephone numbers for doctor’s offices and dental practices in the local telephone directory. You should first make an appointment by telephone before visiting a doctor. For acute illnesses or accidents, you will be given an appointment immediately or on the same day. Otherwise, you will have to wait for several days or even weeks, particularly for specialists. Few practices are open on Saturdays, and only emergency services can be accessed on Sundays.


If, after being examined, you have received a prescription for the prescribed medication from the doctor, the pharmacies usually charge an additional fee of EUR 5 to 10 per item. In the case of minor disorders, you will receive non-prescription medicines. You can get a free consultation in all pharmacies, even without visiting a doctor.


If the doctor’s office is closed, the doctors on call will help you. You can contact the emergency services outside surgery hours (Monday to Friday), during the night, at the weekends and on public holidays using the telephone number 116117. You also have the option of going to the accident and emergency department of a hospital. Some pharmacies are also open at weekends and on public holidays. Further information can be found online.


If you require an ambulance, dial 112.


Text last edited on: 07/2021